Thursday, June 16, 2016

Guidebook research VII: the hunebedden

Hunebed D17 at Rolde

Today it's all about hunebedden, 52 of which stand in Drenthe (two more in Groningen). They are the remains of 5000-year-old dolmens, or burial tombs. At the Hunebed Center, a museum dedicated to the ancient monuments, I learned that they were built at the dawn of the Neolithic era and first excavated in the 19th century. It is believed that the granite boulders used for these dolmens arrived with the glaciers from Scandinavia during the Ice Age.

(original date of this entry: June 12, 2015)

And this fact: "Drenthe was a remote and isolated region, with vast areas of uninhabited peat bogs, well into the 20th century."

I purchased a map that showed the location of all the dolmens in Drenthe. This makes for a fun treasure hunt: follow the bike path to the symbols on the map, and keep an eye out for the hunebed indicator signs (see above).The largest hunebed of all, dubbed D27, is behind the museum.

Borger-Assen: map shows hunebed sites

From the museum, the route rolls through forest to reach hunebedden D21-22, originally excavated in 1918. Such a lovely spot, shaded by a sturdy oak tree. Then out in the bright hot sun by vast crop fields. Sweaty hot. Reaching a T, where an artist's interpretation of a hunebed illustrates a paean to the mysterious tombs, I turn right toward kp 42, always following the LF14b, past an amusement park. Next, down a road with traffic but cloaked in greenery to the village of Gasselte whose nice park I make use of.

't Nije Hemelrijk
Then it was a question of whether to ride farther north to Gieten (goats) or dive into the forest known as the Hondsrug. I chose the latter, heading west for kp 61, and found a wonderful little lake, one of those circular holes left by glaciers, ringed by fine sand, a genuine beach on the hottest day yet. There's a good little snack bar with fritjes, sandwiches, ice cream. It's a damn near perfect spot on a day like today.

Hondsrug forest

Now I'll roll along through the Hondsrug and over to Rolde, just 3km from here.  I begin alongside a road with sparse traffic, then the path veers alone into the forest. A delight. I guess I'm really off the grid now, here between Gasselte and Rolde. I've only seen the occasional cyclist. Yet it is perfect for riding.

Cemetery at Rolde
The hunebedden by Rolde--which according to the nearby board is the most photographed of them all due to their picturesque setting behind a medieval church--should not be missed. One is uncannily balanced like the vertabrae of a dinosaur. Actually it's behind the graveyard--in itself impressive with war dead from the 1800s. Despite the site's supposed popularity with 'hunebed tourists' I'm the only one here. Peaceful under the oaks, cows grazing behind. I'd love to linger but must get to Assen: 6km west. surely this place is among the high points of my trip--that is near its conclusion.

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